Monday, August 31, 2009

Bird Farm in Rye

From work: We at Westchester Land Trust just helped protect a terrific piece of property called the Bird Homestead, on the tidal portion of Blind Brook, at the mouth of Milton Harbor, in Rye. More details on our website, here.

Lobster Troubles

Important facts gleaned from Judy Benson's New London Day story about lobstering in Long Island Sound:

Lobsters haven't come close to rebounding from the 1999 die-off.

But demand is weak so the price of lobster is way down.

For a while starting January 1, 2010, it will be harder to catch lobsters in the Sound because the legal size limit will increase by 1/16 of an inch and because traps will be required to have a larger escape hole, so small lobsters will be able to get out I say "for a while," because, as David Simpson points out, after six months or so, lobsters that previously would have been of legal size will have grown to the new legal size).

Connecticut could have had a reprieve from that increase if the state had funded the v-notch program (and the program had worked) but it didn't.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Water Quality in Recent Weeks

Water quality in Long Island Sound this summer, as measured by dissolved oxygen, is still better than it has been, on average, for two decades.

These maps show how the drop in dissolved oxygen has spread from west to east this year, through July and August. It's typical but interesting to look at nonetheless.

How's the Cleanup Going? We'll See

This is interesting ... Save the Sound, along with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Science and Technical Advisory Committee of the Long Island Sound Study, are hiring a consultant to, among other things, evaluate how the Sound cleanup is going. The consultant will also work with the two committees to figure out ways to improve the cleanup, preumably based on the results of the assessment. Here's an excerpt from the announcement, which Leah Schmalz of Save the Sound sent out yesterday:

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, in coordination with the Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Science and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) of the Long Island Sound Study ( is seeking a consultant to: a) assess and evaluate the progress to-date in implementing the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) and b) facilitate the CAC in a visioning process that we hope will lead to the development of a shared vision document that includes recommendations and action items for future Long Island Sound restoration and protection efforts. Below are some of the general requirements.

The people who are overseeing the cleanup have always said that they think it's going generally OK. An independent look is definitely worth it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Go Plant Dune Grasses: It's a Good Project

I almost never use this blog as a pass-along for press releases and organizational promotions, but this one is worth it, from Save the Sound. Kieran Broatch describes why Bride Brook is so important:

Save the Sound needs up to 30 volunteers for an upcoming habitat restoration project. Come help us transplant native dune grass at the mouth of Bride Brook!

Friday, September 11th, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme, CT

Tools and refreshments will be provided. Please bring gloves and wear closed-toe shoes and long pants.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Kierran Broatch at

This dune grass planting is the first stage in a significant restoration project. Bride Brook hosts one of the premier river herring runs in the state. Currently, the herring swim through two metal pipes and under a dune system in order to get from Long Island Sound to their fresh water spawning habitat. However, these pipes are beginning to collapse. This fall, the eroding pipes will be replaced with an open channel and large box culvert, which will allow better tidal flow and an assured fish migration. The adjoining marsh system will be healthier as well.

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, received funding for this project from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Parks Division of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection will manage the construction project.

Thank you,

Kierran Broatch

Volunteer & Outreach Associate

Save the Sound, a program of CFE

205 Whitney Ave., 1st Floor

New Haven, CT 06511

Tel: (203) 787-0646 Ext. 113

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dead Clams on Long Island's Atlantic Beaches?

Is there a clam die-off on the south shore of Long Island? Someone just emailed me this:

Was at Robert Moses beach today and all the clams are dead there too. They are washing up on shore en masse out of their shells. the shells are piling up about 10 inches deep in the surf in some places.

Old Nets

How many ghost lobster traps or fishing nets are sitting on the floor of Long Island Sound, snaring and killing marine life? On Puget Sound, there's federal stimulus money to have divers remove lost nets.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Not a Bad Summer, So Far

As of three weeks ago (8/3-5), water quality in Long Island Sound (as measured by dissolved oxygen concentrations) aren't nearly as bad as it has been in previous years. Here's the summary from the Connecticut DEP:

Bottom water dissolved oxygen concentrations fell below 4.8 mg/L at 30 stations with 11 of those stations falling below 3.5 mg/L and three stations falling below 3.0 mg/L. The lowest concentration was observed at Station A4 (1.49 mg/L). This was higher than in 2008 when the lowest concentration was 0.61 mg/L, also at Station A4. The area of bottom water affected by hypoxia (DO <3.5 mg/L) is 134.8 square miles (349.1 sq. km). The area is less than that documented in 2008 (583.5 km2). The area with DO concentrations less than 3.0 mg/L is 43.7 square miles (113.2 sq km). The average area affected by hypoxia from 1999-2008 was 223.3 sq mi (578.3 sq km).

The cool and rainy start to the summer is no doubt largely responsible. We'll see what the hotter August weather has wrought. Results from last week's survey aren't ready yet.

Hypoxia, of course, isn't the only criterion. There's also pathogens. The heavy rains have probably been brutal for local beaches and shellfish beds but I haven't seen much in the news about it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Salps Again

An anonymous commenter to this post informed me earlier that he (or she) encountered salps recently in southern New Jersey, and I subsequently found this story in a Philly paper. No word though if they've been seen further north.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Start Keeping a List

Florida Bay, one of the 250 or so estuaries in the U.S. that are dying. Same story, different location.

The Good and the Not-So-Good About Cash for Clunkers

Andy Revkin on Twitter pointed me to this interesting Wall Street Journal blog post about the Cash for Clunkers program, and the Journal pointed me to one of my old favorites, the Energy Outlook blog, which I haven't looked at for months. Both are worth reading but in summary it seems as if the program is both better than hoped for and not quite as good as hoped for, and worthwhile over all.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


It's sea turtle season in our estuaries and coastal waters, including Narragansett Bay, where a loggerhead visited recently. I'd love to see one, or hear from people who see them.


Thanks for Driving a Gas Guzzler for All Those Years!

I still like the Cash for Clunkers program but I'm starting to feel like the people who qualify are being rewarded for having done the wrong thing -- namely, drive gas guzzlers.

The Big Job of Restoring Oysters to the Chesapeake

In 1987 Tom Horton, an author based on the Chesapeake, summed up conditions down there for me in one pithy sentence: "It's hard to believe we could fuck up an estuary this big," and yet here we are two decades later, having succeeded so completely in fucking things up, that we have to spend extraordinary energy to restore an animal population that was once abundant beyond reckoning.

“What we need are thousands of acres of permanently restored sanctuary reefs to turn this situation we have with the oyster around,” said David M. Schulte, a doctoral student at the institute and an author of a paper published in Science last week that describes the work. The sanctuaries would aid the oyster harvest by helping to seed nearby areas, but the overall effort would benefit the bay in other ways, by helping to clean the water and providing more habitat for fish, crabs and other marine life.

If it were only the Chesapeake it would be bad enough, but of course it's not.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fewer Jellies This Year

Land For Sale But No Buyers

Even when I lived in the Adirondacks, 30 years ago, Follensby Pond was iconic -- a remote lake with both wilderness and poetry at its heart. Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Louis Agassiz and others of the Boston intellectual elite camped there in 1858, and their host, William James Stillman, underwent some truly mystical experiences,** if his book, The Autobiography of a Journalist, is to be believed.

Follensby Pond is the focal point of this important piece by WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio, which looks at how in the economic downturn northeast states might be missing out on some terrific land preservation bargains. Here are the nut grafs of reporter Nancy Cohen's story:

... now the economy has tanked states across the Northeast are facing historic deficits. That means far less money for land deals.

Kim Elliman is head of the Open State Institute, an organization that helps find money for land conservation projects across the East, from Georgia to Maine.

“The public shortfall in funding for land conservation has all but brought land conservation transactions to a full stop,” said Elliman.

Thanks to Connecticut Environmental Headlines for the heads-up. I also posted this, by the way, on my rarely-updated and much-neglected work blog, The Four Corners.

** Here's what I'm talking about, from a chapter called "Life in the Wilderness":

In the solitude of the great Wilderness, where I have passed months at a time, generally alone, or with only my dog to keep me company, airy nothings became sensible; and, in the silence of those nights in the forest, the whisperings of the night wind through the trees forced meanings on the expecting ear. I came to hear voices in the air, words so clearly spoken that even an incredulous mind could not ignore them. I sat in my boat one evening, out on the lake, watching the effects of the sky between the gaunt pines which, under the prevalence of the west winds, grew up with an easterly inclination of their tops, like that of a man walking, and thus seemed to be marching eastward into the gathering darkness. They gave a sudden impression of a procession, and I heard as distinctly as I evei heard human speech, a voice in the air which said "the procession of the Anakim." Over and over again, as I sat alone by my camp-fire at night, dreaming awake, I have heard a voice from across the lake calling me to come over and fetch it, and one night I rowed my boat in the darkness more than a mile, to find no one. Watching for deer from a treetop one day, in broad sunlight, and looking over a mountain range, along the crest of which were pointed firs and long level ridges of rock in irregular alternation, the eerie feeling suddenly came over me, and the mountain-top seemed a city with spires and walls, and I heard bands of music, and then hunting-horns coming down with the wind, and there was a perfect illusion of the sound of a hunting party hurrying down into the valley, which gave me a positive panic, as if I were being pursued and must run. I remember also on another occasion a transformation—transfiguration rather—of the entire landscape in colors, such as neither Titian nor Turner ever has shown me. It was a glorification of nature such as I had never conceived and cannot now comprehend.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Recovering Oysters

Hard work and lots of research mean oysters in Long Island Sound are doing better now and might be doing beter still in the future.

The Fish Cellar, in Mount Kisco, makes sure it identifies the oysters it sells by place of origin. We've always preferred east coast oysters (the best I've had were from Fishers Island) to Pacific Northwest oysters, although I'm not sure I'd put it exactly in the same terms as Inke Sunila, who works for the Bureau of Aquaculture in the Connecticut Agriculture department. She opined:

The Pacific oyster is slimy and gray and looks like something hanging from a cow's nose.

I hate to point this out but the Hartford Courant reporter spelled the name of Bloom's oyster boat wrong and got the name of the Norwalk Islands wrong. The Mary Colman (not Coleman) is above; the Catherine M. Wedmore, another of Norm Bloom's oyster boats, is below.


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